6 HR employee experience trends making waves in 2021

Many HR leaders are asking themselves the same question: what does a compelling employee experience look like in 2021? After a year of unprecedented change, strategies need to be recalibrated for the new world of work. But what are the HR trends that will shape the future of employee experience?

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Employee experience rises to the top of HR’s agenda

Your employees don’t have the same relationship with their employer as they did before the pandemic. The pendulum was already starting to swing from top-down leadership to a more balanced dynamic, and COVID-19 has pushed it farther and faster. Mutual respect, inclusivity, flexibility, and a shared sense of purpose are now crucial components of a compelling workplace.

As expectations evolve, HR will lead the way in aligning organizational culture, strategy, and focus. While cultivating a positive environment has always been a focal point, employee experience has now risen to the top of HR’s agenda. 64% of leaders are prioritizing employee experience more highly now than they did before COVID-19.

Using digitalization to transform the employee experience

Prioritizing employee experience may sound obvious, but the steps towards improving it are likely less clear. With employees dispersed and plans for a return to work still on the horizon, some may be wondering what it takes to cultivate an engaging experience in the hybrid workplace. Many leaders are looking to digitalization to enhance employee experience, with 74% planning to increase their spending on HR technology.

Employee experience platforms (EXP's) have emerged as a crucial tool designed to address a broader array of communications and engagement challenges. As an evolution of the intranet, your EXP has all the tools, features, and systems needed to tackle the entire employee experience - from onboarding to reskilling to centralizing benefits information.

HR team social distancing in a meeting room, with PPE on, discussing their employee experience platform


What can an employee experience platform do for HR?

With digital tools at the forefront of overcoming new challenges, how can an employee experience platform (EXP) support employees and what do HR teams need to know about an EXP to effectively manage employee experience in the digital era?

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6 trends every HR leader should have on their radar

After a year of change, how can you ensure your enterprise is ready for the new world of work? HR teams will play a leading role in every component of your organizations’ next chapter, from launching DE&I initiatives to choreographing a safe return to work. There are several HR priorities to keep top of mind, including:

#1. A holistic view of employee experience

The move from headquarters to the home office has changed employee experience. As workers began juggling childcare and conference calls and joining meetings from their kitchen tables, the divide between personal and professional quickly faded.

Instead of focusing on creating the ideal environment for everyone’s 9-to-5, leaders are now striving to support employees in their whole lives. A more holistic view of the employee experience is linked with significant benefits, including a 21% rise in the number of high performers, as compared to organizations that don’t offer the same degree of guidance.

But what does it actually take to support the life experience of your employees? HR leaders are now prioritizing building deeper connections with their people. Often, this starts by asking employees what they need to feel supported, not only at work but in their personal lives. Your EXP can serve as the ideal medium for launching these discussions via pulse surveys and feedback forms, which will in turn shed light on what you need to do to cultivate an employee experience that fully supports your workforce.

Employee experience survey on EXP

HR manager working with an employee


Can an intranet replace your HRIS system?

With the world of work having changed so dramatically in the last 18 months, so too has the role of HR. In the pre-pandemic workplace, employees were in offices and face-to-face contact was a regular occurrence. But with the sharp increase in flexible working, maintaining employee engagement and satisfaction has proven more difficult. An HRIS (HR information system) has long been used to handle the day-to-day people management, but can your intranet do it better?

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#2. The next wave of workplace flexibility

2020 was a big year for the flexible workplace. With the rise of remote work came a decline in presenteeism. Employers learned first-hand that they didn’t need to see their teams in order to know they were working.

While some enterprises are becoming location agnostic, there is a new wave of flexibility on the horizon. Instead of placing an expectation about when employees should start and end work, forward-thinking HR teams will put this decision into their employees’ hands. When organizations shift from a standard schedule to one of radical flexibility, the number of high performers increases by nearly 20%.

In the flexible workplace, consistent and timely communications are particularly crucial. Although your employees might not be working the same hours, everyone needs to be updated about major changes, such as new benefits or office reopenings. Your EXP gets the word out quickly, thanks to comms tools like mandatory content reads and mobile push notifications, which reach employees anytime and anywhere.

Mandatory intranet read notification

'How to fuel a positive culture for remote workers' guide flat pages


How to fuel a positive culture for remote workers

Even under normal working conditions, cultivating a positive culture is both a challenge and a priority. Remote work can add an additional layer of complexity because it’s more difficult for dispersed workforces to unite under one vision. Paired with proper strategy and open lines of communication, the right set of digital tools can fuel a positive culture that boosts employee satisfaction and encourages every user to reach peak performance.

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#3. Social issues come to the forefront

What does it take to lure top talent in 2021? Creating a shared sense of purpose is a top priority, especially because three-quarters of employees expect their employer to take a stance on current societal or cultural issues. Potential new hires are increasingly looking for organizations with cultural values that align with their own.

When it comes to taking a stance, actions really do speak louder than words. In addition to issuing statements, your employees need channels to contribute to organization-wide dialogues and opportunities to get involved in the causes they care about. Your EXP serves as the digital home for these initiatives by centralizing content that tells employees exactly what you’re doing to drive lasting change.

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How to promote diversity and inclusion with workplace technology

Learn how to promote diversity by leveraging your EXP to create a workplace environment that is inclusive and accessible to all.

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#4. New solutions to skill gaps emerge

Skill gaps are a persistent problem for HR. 68% of HR leaders say building critical skills and competencies is their top priority for 2021, for the third consecutive year.

There are several different strategies HR teams are taking to fill existing skill gaps. Some companies are increasing their hiring and are willing to pay a premium for emerging skillsets. Other organizations are looking to contract hiring or expanding their partnerships to access the competencies their workforce is lacking.

Whether you choose to hire in-house or build a network of freelancers, every employee needs a unified digital experience. You can launch a reskilling hub within your EXP to encourage employees to broaden their expertise, while ensuring contract workers have access to the same resources and communications channels via an extranet or portal.


Designing employee experience

With the Nielsen Norman Group announcing that an unprecedented four Unily intranets feature in their 10 best intranets of 2021, episode 7 of the Unily podcast discusses all things design. Paul Seda is joined by returning star Senior Consultant Alex Gabelli, and two newcomers – Product Manager Katie Johnson and Senior UI Developer Lewis Munt – to share their thoughts about designing the best employee experience.

Watch now

#5. Earning trust becomes crucial

Many workplaces have a trust issue. Less than 50% of employees trust their organization with their data and only 44% of workers trust their organization’s leaders to manage a crisis well.

One major obstacle in building trust is the rise in technology that passively tracks and monitors employees. Remote work triggered a boom in tracking software designed to help leaders evaluate productivity. However, introducing these tools can feel like an invasion of privacy and contribute to a sense of resentment amongst employees.

Instead of turning to tracking technology to improve employee performance, aim to create an environment that inspires top-tier work. Build the foundation for trusting employee-employer relationships by emphasizing two-way messaging and transparency in your HR comms and providing channels for every employee to share their feedback.

Future of workplace guide


The future of the workplace trends 2030+

How will technology and artificial intelligence change the way we work? What will the offices of the future look like? What skills will be valued and how can we futureproof both our business' and our personal success? Download our brand new report in partnership with Kjaer Global for answers to these questions and more…

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#6. Mental health discussions go mainstream

Conversations about mental health are coming to the forefront. In the wake of COVID-19, many enterprises have debuted new resources to support employee well-being. In fact, 68% of organizations have introduced at least one additional wellness benefit to aid employees during the pandemic.

This emphasis on wellbeing will not end once the pandemic is behind us. Instead, employers will go even further by launching new initiatives designed to support mental health. From opening up discussions about workplace stress to shutting down the company for a collective mental health day, leaders will introduce tactics to decrease burnout and make sure employees are feeling their best.

If you’re looking for a launchpad for wellbeing initiatives, consider creating a mental health hub on your EXP. This resource can include FAQs, video content, and explainer articles, as well as outlets for additional support.

Intranet wellbeing hub

Are you ready to take your HR strategy to the next level?

As leaders look ahead to their next chapter, it will be HR who owns the return to work journey and builds the foundation for a future-proof employee experience. If you’re looking to enhance engagement with next-generation technology, see how an employee experience platform can level up your HR strategy.

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